Ask Lucia DeClerck how she has lived to be 105, and she is quick with an answer.
"Prayer. Prayer. Prayer," she offers. "One step at a time. No junk food."
But surviving the coronavirus, she said, also may have had something to do with another staple: the nine gin-soaked golden raisins she has eaten each morning for most of her life.
"Fill a jar," she explained. "Nine raisins a day after it sits for nine days."
Her children and grandchildren recall the ritual as just one of DeClerck's endearing lifelong habits, like drinking aloe juice straight from the container and brushing her teeth with baking soda. (That worked, too: She did not have a cavity until she was 99, relatives said.)
"We would just think, 'Grandma, what are you doing? You're crazy,' " said her 53-year-old granddaughter, Shawn Laws O'Neil, of Los Angeles. "Now the laugh is on us. She has beaten everything that's come her way."
It is a long list. Born in 1916 in Hawaii to parents who came from Guatemala and Spain, she lived through the Spanish flu, two world wars and the deaths of three husbands and a son.
She moved to Wyoming, California and back to Hawaii before finally arriving in New Jersey, where she lived with her oldest son. After turning 90, she moved to an adult community along the Jersey Shore, where she remained active until she injured herself in a fall about four years ago.
DeClerck, the oldest resident of her South Jersey nursing home, learned that she had contracted the virus on her 105th birthday, Jan. 25, the day after she had gotten her second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, according to Michael Neiman, the home's administrator.
At first, she said she was scared. She did not like being isolated, and she missed the daily chatter from the parade of caregivers at Mystic Meadows Rehabilitation and Nursing, a 120-bed facility in Little Egg Harbor.
She showed few symptoms, Neiman said. And within two weeks she was back in her room, holding her rosary beads and wearing her trademark sunglasses and knit hat.
To her two surviving sons, five grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren and 11 great-great grandchildren, who call her Grandma Lucia, she has a new moniker, O'Neil said: "The 105-year-old badass who kicked COVID."
On Monday, she got a shout-out from Gov. Phil Murphy, who described a phone call with her during a coronavirus news briefing.
"What an uplifting conversation," the governor said.
DeClerck's family gathered in January 2020 at Mystic Meadows to celebrate her 104th birthday before the onset of the pandemic. When they learned that she had contracted the virus, they braced for the worst.
"But she's got a tenacity that is unbelievable," said her son Phillip Laws, 78. "And she's got that rosary — all the time."
She raised three sons and ran a corner store for decades with her first husband, Henry Laws Jr., in Los Angeles.
DeClerck is one of 62 residents of Mystic Meadows to have contracted the virus; four patients died, including three who were receiving hospice care, Neiman said.
"We're as careful as possible," he said, "but this finds a way of sneaking in."